Bonney Lake has tightened its firework legislation after a heated debate about whether fireworks should be banned from the city.
The council passed Ordinance D16-04, which sets new times to launch legal fireworks and revises firework penalties, during the Feb. 23 meeting.
These new rules come half a year after the city asked its residents whether or not they wanted to ban fireworks from the city. In an unofficial survey put out by the city, 59 percent of responses did not support a ban, while 41 percent did.
The poll allowed one response per Internet Protocol (IP) address, but multiple devices could have been used to vote multiple times, and the city could not verify if all the responses were from Bonney Lake residents.
As of Feb. 23, 2017, the only time Bonney Lake residents can launch legal (also known as safe and sane) fireworks inside city limits is from 9 a.m. to midnight on July 4.
The previous rules said fireworks were allowed from 9 a.m. July 3 to 11 p.m. July 5.
There was no change to the times fireworks can be launched during New Years celebrations, which is from 6 p.m. Dec. 31 to 1 a.m. Jan. 1.
Bonney Lake has also changed the penalties for those caught setting off fireworks outside the legal time frame, or with illegal fireworks.
Violating these new rules now lands you a class 1 civil infraction instead of a misdemeanor.
A class 1 civil infraction for violating the new firework rules comes with a $550 ticket, while a misdemeanor is punishable with imprisonment for up to 90 days and/or a maximum fine of $1,000.
So while a civil infraction is a downgrade in terms of a penalty from a misdemeanor, it does make it easier for Bonney Lake officers to cite people for violating the new firework rules, said Bonney Lake Prosecutor Maili Barber.
“It really comes down to the burden of proof,” Barber said. “The burden of proof in a criminal case (misdemeanor) is beyond a reasonable doubt, and the burden in an infraction is ‘proved by a preponderance of the evidence’ – more likely than not.”
When violating the firework rules were punishable by a misdemeanor, officers basically had to catch a person in the act of lighting off a firework, which made enforcing the rules extremely difficult, Barber explained.
“With an infraction, it just has to be more likely than not,” she continued.
Barber also said the new rules are written in a way where the owner of a house where fireworks were set off may be given the infraction, even though they may not be who lit the fireworks.
A civil infraction can be issued for every offense committed, meaning the tickets can stack up for each explosion an officer investigates.
Lighting off fireworks on someone’s property without their permission, or on city property without written consent, is still a misdemeanor criminal charge.
This article has been edited to reflect the correct dates for which the new times legal firework may be set of in Bonney Lake.